I was having a video chat with four of my siblings the other night when we started talking about what it means to have faith. The conversation went from a casual chat to a moderated discussion where we had to raise our hands to speak. We laughed about it because we are usually pretty good about speaking and hearing each other out without using standards like Robert rules of order. However, given the importance of the topic and our zeal to present our own understanding of it, it was necessary to have one person speak at one time. Without going into the exact words shared during our conversations (which I myself don’t recall), we were talking about faith, works, and the law. The “meeting” concluded with us all agreeing faith to mean both believing and doing: faith and obedience go together and one without the other means nothing. Faith is the seed, and works are the fruit of that seed. If we have faith, we will do the works that God has called us to do. Just as it is written, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), and “show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Thanks to our order of conduct, through our discussion we were able to see that we all believed the same thing.
James 1 says:
You see, the Word judges the intentions and motives of our hearts and helps us see things we do not see in ourselves. The Holy Spirit brings conviction to our hearts as we let God’s Word speak to us. And then, He gently leads us to see what we ought to be by showing us what we ought to do as written in the law of God. It is the law of God that shows us a reflection of our true selves, the person He created us to be. This law is called the law of liberty, not because we are free to do whatever we want, but because we are finally free to do what we ought. Our desires align with God’s desires, and our wants get turned towards good deeds. Sometimes we forget that our very struggle is that we can’t do the good we want to do, and instead do the wrong we don’t want to. Jesus sets us free from that; through faith in Jesus we are able to do the good we want to. If we don’t do the good we are supposed to, we decisive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).
Although I knew much of this, somehow that night after my discussion with my siblings, this topic started to weigh even more heavily on my heart. And then the next day, it felt like God was highlighting the topic again! The sermon one of my siblings heard at church the following day was on James 1*. The bible verses that God spoke to me during my devotions also came from James 1. I understood that God was using our video chat to teach us something. I realized how I had become indifferent to what was being taught even though I knew the truth. God requires us to live righteously. The Bible says that the righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4) and that very faith produces in us an unquenchable desire to do the works of God. We are saved by faith not by works, but we are saved for works. What are these works? They are the good works God has assigned us to do from the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10), to obey God and do His will (Matthew 12:50; Matthew 7:21).
When we lose sight of the meaning of faith, we fall into the trap of thinking that we can do what ever we want. We fail to see the seriousness of sin, we lose sight of the gravity of holiness, and we forget the requirements of God’s law. The Bible says, “Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (1 Peter 2:16) and yet, many justify their negligence of the pursuit of godliness and holiness by saying they are under grace. They forget that God says no one will see Him without holiness (Hebrews 12:14). The law that Jesus gave us requires more from us than the ten commandments. How then can we pretend that we do not have to do anything to stay right with God? This kind of attitude does not lead to repentance.
Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus fulfilled the law and by doing so extended His grace to every believer to obey God and say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:12). Jesus gave His life so that through Him, we would have the ability to obey God’s law. This was the Father’s plan from the beginning – to give us a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone, a heart that is obedient to His law. As it is written, “I will write my law on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). Our faith in Jesus changes us from the inside out, transforming us into the image of the Son (2 Corinthians 3:18). The reflection we see in God’s perfect law of liberty is the likeness of Jesus, therefore, let us not forget Whom we have seen. Let us strive to do good, in every moment and every place, because that is what God has called us to. Let us stop justifying our selfish desires, our laziness or lack of interest. Let us get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in us which is able to save our souls (James 1:21). Let us fully depend on God to reflect the person of Jesus in all we do. For this in fact is who we are, and who we are becoming if we obey the leading of the Shepherd of our souls.
*Sermon: Ellerslie Road Baptist Church sermon from June 11, Listening and Doing @ https://erbc.ca/listening-and-doing-dave-schmidt-june-11-2017/